WEConnect International, a global non-profit, assists women-owned businesses across the world by creating sustainable forward linkages with corporations. IFC, with support from WEConnect International, has commenced an initiative called Corporate Connect: Strengthening Market Access For Women Owned Businesses for supporting Bangladeshi women-owned businesses as part of a national project to connect women-owned businesses with corporate buyers. The initiative is funded by DFID, The Ministry of Commerce and a World Bank funding initiated by Ivanka Trump is set to scale up the project. Our work with WEConnect International for the project with an initial study in 2017 focusing on finding scalable women owned businesses and opportunities for growth. We have already completed the first phase – report preparation and findings dissemination. Since then, we’ve collaborated extensively with WEConnect International and IFC to develop the project’s corporate engagement strategy and identifying capacity improvement needs of women owned businesses as part of our second phase engagement of the project.
We’ve developed a corporate engagement strategy in conduit with building a group of corporate representatives who’ll drive greater supplier diversity within their organization. This involved, systematically approaching relevant corporate partners and marketing the concept of supplier diversity and how it affects their overall business sustainability. We’ve ensured participation of 10 corporations through signed pledge letters and commitment of sourcing from women owned businesses. Recently, we’ve organized a forum on March 27, 2019 to disseminate findings from our initial study and create greater dialogue between relevant stakeholders about greater supplier diversity. Additionally, 50 women owned businesses were selected for a capacity development training to help them gain skillset and networking necessary to be able to supply to corporations. The WOBs selected were from a diverse background, starting from leather, crafts to ICT and service industry. The trainings were provided in association with A4 Consultants, a training consultancy firm.
For the next phase of the project, we are gearing up to deliver a second cohort of training to relevant participants and continuing our work of creating greater corporate engagement.